HomeMLB RumorsThe Opener: Pitchers' Duel, LeMahieu, Nootbaar

The Opener: Pitchers’ Duel, LeMahieu, Nootbaar

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As the 2024 regular season continues, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world throughout the day today:

1. Pitchers’ duel in Detroit:

Two of the AL Central’s very best starting pitchers are set to clash this evening when Twins right-hander Pablo Lopez takes the mound in Comerica Park against Tigers lefty Tarik Skubal. Lopez, 28, is coming off a strong 2023 campaign that saw him make the first All-Star appearance of his career and finish seventh in AL Cy Young award voting after posting a 3.66 ERA and 3.33 FIP in 194 innings of work. He’s performed admirably in his first two starts this year since stepping into the role of staff ace vacated by Sonny Gray, with a 2.84 ERA and 3.05 FIP in 12 2/3 innings of work to this point.

Meanwhile, Skubal is coming off a dominant second-half in 2023 after his midseason return from elbow surgery. In 15 starts last year, Skubal pitched to a sterling 2.80 ERA with an even better FIP of 2.00 while striking out a whopping 32.9% of batters he faced. The southpaw has continued rolling so far this year, with a 32.6% strikeout rate to go with a 2.92 ERA and 3.37 FIP in 12 1/3 innings. Detroit has outperformed Minnesota in the early going this year, posting a 7-4 record (1.5 games behind the Guardians in the AL Central) that gives them an early lead on the 4-6 Twins. This afternoon’s game is set to begin at 6:40pm local time.

2. LeMahieu to be re-examined:

Veteran infielder DJ LeMahieu has spent the entire 2024 campaign to this point on the injured list, prompting the Yankees to lean on Oswaldo Cabrera and Jon Berti at the hot corner. It’s possible LeMahieu could be getting closer to a return, however. Per MLB.com, manager Aaron Boone recently told reporters that LeMahieu will undergo a fresh round of imaging today in order to determine whether or not he’s ready to head out for a rehab assignment. The 35-year-old veteran was roughly league average at the plate in a down season last year but has a strong .285/.358/.430 slash line since joining the Yankees prior to the 2019 season.

3. Cardinals to activate Nootbaar:

The Cardinals’ outfield was hit particularly badly by the injury bug in spring training, as each of Lars Nootbaar, Tommy Edman, and Dylan Carlson opened the season on the shelf. Fortunately for Cardinals fans, that’s about to change. Per The Athletic’s Katie Woo, Nootbaar is set to be activated from the injured list prior to tonight’s game against the Diamondbacks, which is scheduled to begin at 6:40pm local time. A corresponding move will be necessary to make room for Nootbaar on the active roster, and Woo reports that the Cardinals will accomplish that by optioning third-string catcher Pedro Pages to the minor leagues.

Nootbaar carries a .247/.356/.430 slash (120 wRC+) and an excellent 14.5% walk rate in 225 games for the Cardinals over the past two seasons. If the 26-year-old can replicate that past production, he’s sure to provide a major boost to a beleaguered offense in St. Louis that has seen its current outfield mix of Jordan Walker, Victor Scott II, and Alec Burleson all get out to slow starts. They aren’t the only ones who have struggled so far. Veterans Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado have hit a combined .194 with just four extra base hits in 108 trips to the plate.

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